Meal planning for the overwhelmed

meal planning tips

I was the overwhelmed. Technically, I’m still the overwhelmed, but I found after meal planning/prepping/doing for the past five weeks that it’s actually quite simple.

That’s what everyone says, right?

“it’s a breeze! just do this and that, and you’re all set!”

But, in reality, its far from simple, because that person who’s sayings it’s a no-brainer has been doing it for years. And the person who can’t get over the overwhelming feeling of where to start finds the “expert’s” advice far from helpful.

That, I think, is what makes meal planning so complicated. It has to be tailored to the individual doing it. Though there are thousands of methods, ideas, and plans to follow, (I really like Lindsay’s meal-prep posts), if they’re not foods you’d typically eat, you’ll fail every.single.time.

That’s how I felt.

I’ve wanted to do weekly meal plans since getting married, last year, and have attempted it several times. I even went so far as to interview a seasoned monthly meal planner for the Arizona Farm Bureau, just to get ideas for myself! Yet, despite that, I still couldn’t overcome the loss of where to begin, making each and every weekday and night miserable as I agonized over what to make.

Maybe you’ve gone through the same things?

So, after much stress – typically brought on by myself – I decided to take action! Here’s what I learned, plus how I overcame it all to “successfully” (I use that term loosely) meal plan.

The first week WILL BE STRESSFUL!

It didn’t matter that I had the entire week planned out from breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two daily snacks, including the grocery lists and recipes, I still felt way over my head. On Sunday, I cooked non-stop for six hours straight, running back and forth from stove, to fridge, to chopping, to washing the mounds of dishes. It felt endless and too much to ever want to do it again, but I was determined to prove myself. To whom? – No idea, but I was too deep in it to quit.

Come Monday, as I was sipping my morning coffee, the realization set in. I didn’t have to cook… for the whole week!! I practically did a dance right then and there. I didn’t have to think, stress, or worry over what to make for dinner. It was already sitting in the fridge ready to eat. I thought if all it took was six terribly stressful hours of cooking on Sunday, it was well worth it to have the whole week of freedom.

But here’s the thing.

The second week: NOT as stressful!

I will give this caveat: I followed a pre-set meal plan for three weeks in a row. Was it the exact same foods each week? – Yes. Did they lay out what to eat, cook, and provide the grocery list and recipes? – Yes! Is that considered “cheating” in the meal planning world? – Heck to the no, no!

I think for someone who IS overwhelmed, its the absolute perfect solution to overcome the stress of meal planning. Simply because it gives you a starting point. It did take me a long time to find the right pre-set meal plan, but after diligently searching, I found one that fit our lifestyle.

By the third week, I was on cruise control. What took six hours the first week, took less than three. Even my husband commented on how cool, calm, and collected I was while preparing everything. It wasn’t lost on me either. I was loving knowing it didn’t stress me out like before.

Though I don’t follow that specific meal plan any longer, I have used what I learned going forward with our weekly meals, and find it so much easier now. Life has gotten SO much easier now.

So, if you’re anything like me, someone who has always wanted to meal plan but couldn’t get past the crippling feelings of being overwhelmed, then here are some useful tips for you!

  • Find a pre-set meal plan. ie. Let someone else do the grunt work for you. (this may take a bit of time, but give yourself a solid hour to search through varying plans to find the right one)
  • Commit to at least two weeks of meals. I say this because that first week is rough, but I promise it gets 1,000x easier as the weeks go on.
  • Know the first week will be crazy and stressful, but press through! Chant “just keep swimming” if you need to make it through.
  • If doing it all on Sunday is too much, break it up into two days. Just make sure you have Monday’s and Tuesday’s meals ready.
  • Believe and know it WILL get easier! By the third week you will see it is considerably easier guaranteed!

If you’re a new or seasoned meal planner, let’s hear your methods!
How do you meal plan and what got you started wanting to meal plan?

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